and mind the way you talk
Watch out for the vampire who will sneak up in the dark
Watch out for the big time thief who claim say that dem smart
and bring in the crack and the gun to mash up the yout dem heart
Earth a run red
I hear a next yout dead!
Earth a run red - Richie Spice
We've had quite a string of murders in Toronto in recent weeks, mainly young black men getting gunned down on the streets. Its allegedly some sort of gang issue, assuming as the Police and Press have done that most of these murders are actually associated somehow, and they seem to be occurring mainly in some of the poorer (read predominantly black) neighborhoods in the city.
It has all sparked quite a cry of concern and also outrage from the general public, politicians, the press and everyone in the city. We pride ourselves here in Canada on being a gentler version of our North American neighbor, the U.S, and indeed if one compares the average U.S city's crime rates with ours then you can see that we do come in at quite a lower rate than they do. Only 41 murders so far in Toronto this year, 33 gunshot related. When you think that officially we have about 2.5 million people living here that's a drop in the ocean but murders cant be just viewed as isolated events as one
But I guess the infrequency of murders here compared to other big cities is one of the reasons why any spate of shootings stands out in our society. Unlike other places we are not yet desensitized to that sort of violence so any shooting still is a big deal to us.
So the questions remain, what do we do about this recent spate of shootings and where are these young men getting such easy access to guns? Clearly no one in the areas affected actually manufactures the weapon of choice. I mean aint no weapons factories in Rexdale or Regent or Flemmo, so they must be coming in from somewhere outside these areas and someone probably in a gated mansion somewhere well removed from the affected areas or at least in a mildly affluent neighborhood is probably profiting quite well from the sale of these weapons.
The violence perpetrated with these weapons is a serious situation and not one to be dealt with lightly in my opinion but when a black councilman in Toronto can openly call for Police to conduct random checks on young black men in certain communities as a step to somehow stopping these shootings I've got to sit back and just think about this whole situation really closely.
Truthfully I was very upset when I read about this in yesterday's newspaper. Did Councillor Michael Thompson flip his lid? Naa he couldn't really be serious about this could he? I felt betrayed somehow. I just could not believe that a black man would advocate giving policemen carte blanche on such an issue. Weren't we just complaining about racial profiling a few months back? Was he not at one time a young black man himself?
Now I wont go as far as Royston James did in his column yesterday (you can check that out at the Toronto Star but you have to subscribe to view it) in suggesting that others have dubbed Councillor Thompson an Uncle Thompson but I most strenuously disagree with the councillor's suggestion.
I'm sure there are some who wholeheartedly agree with his stance though and will say well at least he is postulating ideas while I'm just criticizing. Its a time for tough love, the kid's gloves must come on, by any means necessary we must stop this violence even if it means condoning racial profiling they will say. Well while I don't want to be accused of being soft on criminals I still disagree with the councillors suggestion.
I believe that his comments were out of place and that subscribing to his line of thought would only make situations worse. But then after all I am biased by being a young black man (even if I'm starting to grey a bit) and a law abiding citizen and I would hate to be living in a state where policemen can just routinely stop me to search me simply because of the color of my skin and the neighborhood I'm in AND its actually a policy which has been agreed upon by my government. Notice I added that last distinction because black men still face much racism and accusations from policemen in North America but at least the state does not 'publicly' condone these acts anymore.
Councillor Thompson suggestion implies that a majority of young black men out in these target neighborhoods are gun carriers or criminals. Has it been proven that the young men who live in these neighborhoods are indeed the perpetrators of these crimes as it could just as easily be outsiders committing them. This implication is also a judgment on all young black men and has far reaching implications. Here is one of our own, saying he has given up on us and its time to treat us as less than full citizens of this country by trampling on our rights. Now I could see this being spewed by our former right wing Reform or Canadian Alliance political parties but a black man actually thrusting forth this suggestion into the public realm is mind boggling to me.
I mean there is already a certain stigma that goes with dwelling in certain areas but now you are literally painting all of those residents with one broad brush saying that they are all bad people. And what percentage of these folk have guns we ask that this solution is seen as feasible? How many law abiding innocent citizens will be stopped and stripped of their dignity, as they go about their daily routine in these neighborhoods, in this policy for the return of possibly one gun. How many will be victims because they just happen to live in an targeted area? Simple victims of location. What ratio is good enough, if we stop and harass 15 to get one gun is that considered a success, what about 20, 30, 50 for one. If 50 young black men are stopped, searched and harassed and possibly scarred for life and we find one gun does that justify this policy, how about 100? What's to stop a black man from giving his gun to a female or a white man, or will the policy then extend to searching everyone in that particular neighborhood? Here's a thought lets just barrier off the entire area, give them special id cards and search them everytime they leave that area too.
How will random searches affect the already less than tepid relationships between community and law enforcement when the majority of black men stopped prove to be innocent? You really think you're going to get the community to help out if you are randomly searching and harassing the innocent? Have we not seen images of what happens in Israel and Palestine where harassment by armed forces has caused the Palestinian community to coalesce into a unified force against the Israelis. Ok that comparison rather simplifies the Middle Eastern situation but again if police are allowed powers to randomly search black men just based on location we would be creating a situation where the animosity between groups is raised to such a level that all relations are permanently soured. All that would exist is anger. How does this help law enforcement?
Plus wouldn't we be enforcing a stereotype on these young men? Why should the law abiding continue to be law abiding in these areas if they will be harassed? You're telling these young men that they are all criminals and need to be checked simply because they happen to be black. Shout it out too often and too loudly and you know what they will all start to believe it and then what?
I'm not denying that its a bad situation all around since something must be done to combat the violence but random searches, really?
Before such a reactionary move have we even looked at the causes of this violence? Why do we have a lost generation of black youth in these areas. Oh I don't know is it perhaps because the schooling in these areas is sub-par, is it regional and municipal governments have slashed and cut a lot of the community services and after school programs in these areas that would have helped to keep these kids out of trouble, is it that the young men from these areas who want a job or training are frustrated in their efforts to find either? Is it that our black leaders are ineffective and others rather than make an effort make asinine comments like Councillor Thompson. What I'm saying, even though I may be labeled an apologist, is that even though there are guilty amongst these young men who have chosen their criminal path, society has also failed them. Both society in the more local sense of their parents and friends and society in the larger sense as in their leaders and government. Have we thought about that?
Ok maybe the horse has bolted the barn on this generation and we've thrown in the towel but are we doing anything to fix it for the next one or will we wait till their cycle of violence starts to begin postulating on even more draconian measures to keep them in check?
Oh well at least the police don't agree with Councillor Thompson hey even Councillor Thompson doesn't agree with his statements anymore.